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Australia and Allied strategy in the Pacific, 1941-1946

Horner, David Murray

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This thesis is an analysis of Australian political and military strategy during and after the Second World War. In 1941-42 Australia was faced with a particularly difficult situation, for at a time of great national danger she was beset with a change of government, a change of major alliance partners and a change of geopolitical strategy. The ensuing problems had to be resolved by a small group of political and military leaders and public servants. They had to operate within close...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorHorner, David Murray
dc.date.accessioned2014-01-28T00:06:26Z
dc.date.available2014-01-28T00:06:26Z
dc.identifier.otherb12082752
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/11255
dc.description.abstractThis thesis is an analysis of Australian political and military strategy during and after the Second World War. In 1941-42 Australia was faced with a particularly difficult situation, for at a time of great national danger she was beset with a change of government, a change of major alliance partners and a change of geopolitical strategy. The ensuing problems had to be resolved by a small group of political and military leaders and public servants. They had to operate within close limitations. First, the country had a small population and weak economy, and was largely unprepared for war. Second, strategic decisions had to be made in a framework of coalition war with Britain and America. Third, Australia lacked its own intelligence and diplomatic services. Fourth, attitudes of reliance upon British advice in particular, and external advice in general, were deeply ingrained. Fifth, partly as a result of the above considerations Australian decision-planners lacked experience in matters of strategy and foreign policy. Australia's experience during the Second World War revealed a lack of a sophisticated and coherent approach to national strategic decision making. The Prime Minister, John Curtin, deferred to the Allied Commander-in-Chief, General Douglas MacArthur, on questions which should have been decided by the Australian government alone. The attempts of the Australian Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Thomas Blarney to advocate a policy designed to serve Australia's national interests were often ignored by the government. And because the government both lacked experience of military affairs and distrusted the military, it relied heavily upon the guidance of the civilian Secretary of the Department of Defence, Sir Frederick Shedden. Nevertheless, during the war Australia made important advances in her capacity to make independent strategic decisions and to secure an independent voice and role in allied strategy. An indigenous intelligence organisation was developed, the Department of External Affairs was expanded, and the Australian armed services achieved a high international reputation on the battlefield. Finally, Australia secured leadership of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. The Second World War was a major turning point in Australia's evolution as an independent nation. An important part of that evolution was the development of Australia's capacity to formulate its own national strategic and foreign policies and to undertake independent military action in support of those policies. Australia's experience during the Second World War provides vital lessons for the present. The principal lesson is the need for adequate organisational machinery for strategic decision-making; and political and military leaders and public servants must be trained and prepared to deal with politico-strategic problems. There are, however, other important lessons; accurate intelligence is crucial, mobilisation procedures need to be examined, principles need to be established and officers trained for inter-allied cooperation, and the Australian forces need to possess the ability to operate independently. Nevertheless, despite changes in science and technology and in the world balance of power, strategic decision-making still relies primarily upon the judgement of individuals. Although there were shortcomings in strategic decision-making in the Second World War, in the long term Australia's interests did not suffer greatly because of them. If similar shortcomings are displayed in the future, the nation may not be so fortunate.
dc.language.isoen_AU
dc.titleAustralia and Allied strategy in the Pacific, 1941-1946
dc.typeThesis (PhD)
local.contributor.supervisorO'Neill, Robert
dcterms.valid1980
local.description.notesSupervisor: Dr Robert O'Neill. This thesis has been made available through exception 200AB to the Copyright Act.
local.description.refereedYes
local.type.degreeDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
dc.date.issued1980
local.contributor.affiliationAustralian National University, Department of International Relations
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5d74e42a45ea0
local.mintdoimint
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